John F. Russell: Trying to keep up with the best |

John F. Russell: Trying to keep up with the best

— It took just a few minutes after stepping off the gondola for me to realize I was in trouble.

My job was to take a photograph of David Lamb, who was voted Best Skier in Steamboat Springs in this year's Best of the Boat reader survey.

The problem was that I needed to catch the guy first.

It's been a few weeks since we skied together, but I think I can sum up the experience in one word: humbling. There is no question that he is a talented skier. He always has been fueled by the thrill that comes from reaching top speeds on skis. As a teenager, he strived to make the U.S. Alpine Ski Team before choosing college. He was an All-American at the University of Denver, and before injuries cut his skiing career short, he was one of our nation's top athletes in the sport of ski cross and had dreams of representing the United States in the Olympics.

I guess I knew it was going to be a challenge to try to keep up with the guy when I suggested taking a few runs, but I also felt like I might learn a thing or two from the skier considered by many in our town to be the best — and I did.

Sure, he left me in the dust as we made our way down Rudi's Run. He left me in the dust when we skied to take a portrait with the valley in the background, and he left me in the dust when we were cruising around looking for the perfect place for action photos. When he wasn't skiing, he pretty much was waiting for me to catch up. The good news is that he slowed down just long enough for us to make some great images that were used with the Best of the Boat results in Steamboat Living magazine.

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Before skiing with him, I considered myself a better-than-average skier, but when I came face-to-face with David, I realized I still have some work to do. In fact, if I start today, there is a good chance I could scratch the surface of what it will take before I'm simply too old to ski anymore.

Steamboat Springs is filled with great skiers, and I'm smart enough to realize that I never will be one of them.

But after spending the afternoon doing my best to keep up with David, the one thing that really impressed me was his passion. I learned that the joy of skiing has nothing to do with how good you are but the joy that comes from sliding down the hill.

In the end, you don't have to be one of those skiers who put the word super in Maverick's Superpipe, and you don't have to be one of those skiers who make their way through the moguls on Voo Doo faster than most of us can get down a groomer.

I'm just happy that a passion for skiing is something we all can share.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email

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